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Winnetka Affordable Housing Plan Draws Cheers, Jeers

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Winnetka Meeting

Winnetka residents gather for a meeting on affordable housing. (Credit: CBS)

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WINNETKA, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) – It was standing room only Tuesday night as the village board discussed an affordable housing plan in the upscale North Shore suburb of Winnetka.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, affordable housing has been a contentious issue in the wealthy community, where the median price of a home exceeds $1 million.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports


The plan calls for setting aside 15 percent of new developments for lower-income families, although the threshold for “lower-income” in Winnetka is far higher than in most places.

The Village Plan Commission says the goal is to provide more housing for families of four or more who earn less than $105,000 a year.

Village president Jessica Tucker said she did not want the suburb to become another community of “McMansions,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Other supporters say the goal is to help young families and recent college graduates, the newspaper reported.

Supporters also say an affordable housing plan would simply allow those who work in Winnetka to live there and possibly retire there.

“I’ve read their plan rather quickly, and it seems like it’s pretty much common sense,” Winnetka resident James Fargo told CBS 2.

But an opponent called it “social engineering” that would interfere with the housing market, and called for a voter referendum, the Tribune reported.

Opponents also say there is no reason why someone who works in the community must live there.

In a Chicago Tribune report late last month, the plan was deemed “un-American” by the Winnetka Homeowners Association, which claimed it would lower property values, draw crime, and subsidize those who are dependent on “handouts.”

The newspaper quoted Homeowners Association chairman Carry Buck as saying there are plenty of affordable housing options in other communities in the area, and she characterized the affordable housing plan as a government overreach in a community she called mostly conservative.

Six years ago, Winnetka residents voted for home rule, to avoid compliance with state-mandated affordable housing rules.

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